Sports

No room for errors as Boyz face El Salvador in CNL qualifier

BY SEAN A WILLIAMS
Deputy Sport Editor

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

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In the Reggae Boyz's final Concacaf Nations League (CNL) qualifying match against El Salvador in that country on March 23, there can be no room for errors.

Jamaica, currently at number five in the CNL standings with nine points after wins against the Cayman Islands (4-0), Bonaire (6-0) and Suriname (2-1), will want to achieve their twin-goal of booking spots in League A and the flagship Concacaf Gold Cup.

But while they are within striking distance to achieve both goals, a slip against El Salvador could potentially put paid to at least one of those objectives — League A qualification were they not to end in the top-six of the standings.

The draft for positions in the Nations League will be made in Las Vegas, Nevada, on March 27, a day before the Concacaf Congress.

Notwithstanding, team manager Roy Simpson is confident the Boyz will rise to the occasion and meet all objectives.

“Before we started participation in the competition the format of the CNL was explained and shared with all players and staff, and we are confident of qualifying for League A and everyone knows the importance of a positive result in El Salvador,” Simpson told the Jamaica Observer recently.

The seasoned Boyz manager is, however, very aware of the task of playing away in Central America made even more dangerous confronting an opponent with its proverbial back against the wall.

“It is going to be a tough and a big game as the El Salvador team is in a situation that they need a positive result. Our players are aware and are ready for the challenge,” he reasoned.

In preparation for this crucial match-up, the team manager said a local-based camp has been maintained since mid-February. That squad, playing under the tag of “KSAFA Invitational” to avoid branding conflict with the Reggae Girlz, engaged the Under-23 squad in a curtain-raiser for the Reggae Girlz friendly international match against Chile at the National Stadium on February 28.

The sidebar game ended 1-1, while the Girlz were 1-0 winners. The World Cup-bound senior women's team followed that up with an exciting 3-2 victory over the South Americans in Montego Bay in the two-match series on March 3.

“The preparation of the unit commenced in mid-February with a local camp, which included two games against the U23 squad as curtain- raisers for the games the females played against Chile,” Simpson shared.

The team official noted that the senior Boyz would have been significantly boosted by a top-class friendly international before heading to El Salvador, but that is no longer an option.

“It would be great (to have an international match), however, the international window is in March, which makes it very difficult to get all players who will be involved in the CNL game and a team fitting the style of play of El Salvador,” Simpson reasoned.

He said while head coach Theodore “Tappa” Whitmore has identified a core group of players, the door is always open for players with something to offer the short and long-term programme of the team.

“The addition, or non-inclusion of players, rests solely with the head coach and his assistants. However, the fluidity of the sport allows inclusion and exclusion of players,” Simpson argued.

“The unit is in a transition phase, so all areas need strengthening,” he added.

Simpson paused to recognise the Girlz and their World Cup-qualifying success, an achievement that has inspired not only the men's team, but the entire Jamaican football constituency.

“The entire Reggae Girlz Unit must be commended for their historic achievement and the senior men's unit draws inspiration from any positive situation that impacts the entire nation and the people of Jamaica.

“Interestingly, they (the Girlz) will be at the World Cup in France and we will be at the Gold Cup in North America during the summer, two continents of the world will be dominated by our athletes, music and culture and that is just awesome… football is indeed for the people,” he ended.

Jamaica have maximum nine points from three rounds of CNL matches, but is pushed down to fifth by an inferior goal difference of plus 11 to teams sitting above.

Also with nine points are leaders Curacao (plus 21), Haiti (plus 16), Cuba (plus 14) and Canada (plus 14). Martinique, also with nine points, sit in sixth spot with a plus 7 goal difference.

El Salvador, meantime, are 13th in the standings with six points, and currently out of contention for League A and Gold Cup qualification, but a win against Jamaica could dramatically turn their fortunes around for at least one competition.

Simpson says “a total of 23 players will be selected for the final game against El Salvador in San Salvador”.

Following their final CNL match, the Boyz will hop over to neighbouring Costa Rica for a friendly international against the host on March 26.

“The game against Costa Rica is continued preparation for the 2019 Gold Cup... players will get an opportunity to help select themselves for future friendly games, the Gold Cup squad, Nations League and World Cup Qualifiers. It is important that players understand the importance of being consistently efficient at this level and to qualify for the Fifa World cup we must be competitive against the 'big teams' in our confederation,” noted Simpson.


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